Life in medieval times was generally hungry. There’s really no way to hide that. There was however a big variety of food available and if you are lucky enough to attend the Abbey Medieval Banquet, you will have a chance to sample. However, depending on your social class, food was either more available or less. For some, the Gentleman’s or the Lady’s hounds, as related by Sir Justyn, ate better.
Meat was very available, just not to everyone. People from the higher classes ate fowl, game, beef and lamb. Spices and preserves became a fashionable way to show wealth (brag factor was always big in the higher social circles) and breads from milled flour, dairy products and fish were readily available, if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, your diet was a little less varied. Perhaps the ‘Peasant’s Medieval Diet’ is something we should all partake in every now and then, as by all reports it was low in fat and high in fibre. However, it was also low in nutrition, which for the people of that time was no joke. Famine was always a reality and people constantly lived in fear of not having enough food.
The subject of food, or lack thereof, permeates through many fairy tales resonating the harsh realities of life as it was in the middle ages. One of my favourites is the Grimm Brothers story of Hansel and Gretel. Earlier versions of the story relate how both parents partake in the decision to abandon the children, rather than see them starve. This was apparently a common occurrence at this time. The evil witch, whose house is made of food, symbolises the pre-occupation of the time with food. Little Red Riding hood also explores the subject of food…the wolf looming large!
Sickness and injury was a constant fear for both the rich and poor in the middle ages, but at least if you were rich, and well nourished, and were able to pay for a physician to attend, there was some chance of survival. Our recent guest bloggers wrote about herbs and medieval surgery, giving us a vivid picture of what may have been.
So, much like today, food was available to some in the middle ages, and not so for others. And many of the foods eaten in the medieval era, have survived the test of time and appear on our tables today. Many of course have not, but we are happy to report that the Abbey Medieval banquet gives us an opportunity to experience the tastes of yesteryear in an ambience which is both authentic and tasteful.
Have fun on Saturday night!